The Dear Hunter – Act III: Life and Death

dhactiiiArtist: The Dear Hunter
Album: Act III: Life and Death
Genre: Rock
Label: Triple Crown

It takes a lot to have the audacity, especially in the current music scene, to set out to make a story arch out of multiple records. In recent history, only Coheed and Cambria set their sights on such heights, but their story was too confusing for anyone to understand/follow and it just became more about how grand they could make each record. However, Casey Crescenzo and the new full band of The Dear Hunter are three records deep [out of six] in telling the story of one individual’s life from the womb to the grave and it’s working beautifully. Act III: Life And Death comes out next week and I have a feeling that anyone who isn’t aware of this band is about to regret missing out on Acts I and II.

There is a very, very precise art to making a concept record, especially one that has such a vast musical climate to work in. You need to be creative and expansive, while keeping things together and flowing. The first record from TDH was quite subtle in my opinion and the second showcased the group [then just two members with a lot of guests on tour] expanding their sound to include more strings, instruments, and anything else one could imagine, so what can they offer us now? I mean, one could fear that getting so large scale so early on could hurt the future four releases, but Crescenzo and crew let us know right off the back this is anything, but true.

From the very beginning of the haunting “Writing On A Wall,” we’re thrust directly into the world of The Dear Hunter, right where the previous album left off. Channeling what seems to be a dark version of The Beatles via the Sargent Pepper days, we’re then given the fiesta inducing, “In Clauda Venenum” that really grabs you by the collar and let’s you know this is one musical ride you want on. The structure is stunning and Crescenzo rides the line between controlled singing and wailing gloriously.

As the record continues, we’re taken through seemingly every facet of rock music, from the most epic, orchestral laced song, to simple tracks with little accompaniment. It’s all done with this reassuring sense that TDH is 100x more concerned with presenting a piece of art than a record you’ll forget in a month. Nothing about this record screams “selling point” other than the simple fact that it’s a beautiful work of art that stands on its own as well as a cohesive piece of an elaborate puzzle.

As far as standout tracks go however, there are many that come to mind. When something flows as wonderfully as this, it can be hard to differentiate the true gold from simply solid tracks, but with time, a few do stand out. There’s the marching band of the damned sounding “The Tank” and seemingly victory march like clatter of “Mustard Gas” that leads into some of the most intricate time signature/accent work on any record released this year. Though, I must say, my personal favorite as of late is “Get Your Gun” which brings the rich rock/orchestral sound and tosses a heavy dose of Western style music into the mix. It’s a 360 degree turn from the majority of the album, but it fits so perfectly you can’t complain.

I challenge everyone reading this to find a more cohesive, beautiful, epic, and stunning record in 2009 than The Dear Hunter’s Act III: Life and Death. This album is truly a standout achievement, not just for the group, but for this music scene in general. At a time where it seems nearly everyone has at least a track dedicated to being the “money maker,” The Dear Hunter is blazing a path all their own and making the art they want to make. The best part of all? This is only the 3rd of 6 records! If we get one a year for the next three years, then all we at UTG have to do is hold a place in our top 5 records of each year for The Dear Hunter because it seems impossible for them to disappoint us. If you’re ready to get away from the cliche scene and dive into some true art, run, don’t walk, to the record store and buy it. Seriously….wow.

Score: 9.5/10

James Shotwell

James Shotwell is the founder of Under The Gun Review. He loves writing about music and movies almost as much as he loves his two fat cats. He's also the co-founder of Antique Records and the Marketing Coordinator for Haulix. You should probably follow him on Twitter.

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  • MetalPFI

    This review just makes me even more impatient to receive my preorder of the deluxe edition. My expectations are very high, but I’m sure Casey and co. won’t dissapoint.

  • Scott

    The packaging of this record is amazing and this is definitely the best album of the year

  • Michael Rogers

    The album is phenomenal and the review does it justice. Well done.

  • SaraOdette

    This is my favorite album of this year. It’s so powerful in many ways I can’t stop listening to it and never will.

  • Reading this just made nearly wee with excitement!! I cannot wait to get out this weekend and buy the album, then spend Saturday listnin to it over and over! ARRRRR!! =D

  • mamaSue

    I received my deluxe edition in the mail today and am completely blown away! These guys never cease to amaze me- the music, the artwork, the story- are ALL amazing!

  • Cory

    awesome review! I completely agree with all that was said! I really hope this gets to a lot of peoples ears, I’m doing the best that I can! CANT WAIT FOR A VINYL RELEASE!!

  • The Jackal kaizer

    I seriously cannot wait for tomorrow. This album is going to be awesome!

  • I agree with that guy. I cant wait for my cd. i could have bought it the other day at the show, but im too broke to buy 2. =/

  • gouldy042

    I got the deluxe edition in the mail a couple days ago. It’s beautiful. This is easily one of the most impressive and well-done albums I’ve ever heard.

  • OMG!!! I got Act III this afternoon and the cd is amazing!!! I completely agree with the review. Act III has surpassed all of expectations. The postcards and story book are awesome! <3

  • Keagan

    Great review. Just got this today and I’m listening as I type this. The two year wait for this has been so worth it.

  • Ralkavi

    Three out of three, and continuing. Concept albums aren’t just for 70’s prog anymore!

  • this cd is truly one of the best of the year so far by a long shot. its pure music genius

  • BuddyGoodness

    I just received my copy and the album is fantastic. Great review.

  • EvolvedThought

    The Dear Hunter is one of the most creative and talented bands I’ve ever heard. ACT I and ACT II are among my favorite albums ever made and ACT III does not disappoint. It just takes one listen to become hooked and a life-long fan.

    Casey’s songwriting is at it’s strongest in this album with heavy hitter “the Tank” standing out as my favorite thus far.

    It’s nice to see a positive review for such a non-traditional band! Keep up the good work.

  • Genni B

    Amazing review, and i completely agree with all of it. The first three albums are just a look ahead to more of what we’re going to be hearing from TDH in the future, and i can’t wait.

  • Johnotronz

    Great review. I could not have expressed the greatness of this album any better myself.

  • Ragnarok

    Is it just me or is anyone else really looking forward to see where the young man finds himself next? Maybe Ms.Leading will show her face again?

  • The new Dear Hunter cd is so amazing. One of my favorites is mustard gas and they also played that song when i saw them at the glass house.

  • andrew w

    “This album is truly a standout achievement, not just for the group, but for this music scene in general.”

    I couldn’t say it any better. The Dear Hunter is the refreshing burst of fresh air we’ve all been waiting for.

  • jay c

    great call on go get your gun. a lot of reviewers don’t seem to get it: the ironic and stylized nature it has.

  • Paradiso

    I’ve been following The Dear Hunter since they released Act I which was truly a breath of fresh air on the music scene. Act II followed that same trend, but brought it to a whole new level. Never have I been more excited for an album than I have for this one. I cannot wait until I can get my hands on a copy.

  • Beauforthigh

    The Dear Hunter has come out with something that can truly change someone’s understanding of how music can be made.
    After hearing act 2 in 2007, i bought act 1 and spent the majority of the past few years listening and truly respecting the music made by Casey Crescenzo and his group of amazing musicians.

    Listen to all of the cd’s….
    I mean it

  • Brandon

    This album is fucking amazing. Put down Octahedron you lame ass and get a copy of Act III if you want to jizz out of your ears (in a good way).

  • Russ

    such a good record.

  • Tim

    This is more than a great album it’s a great experience! Combine pristine music with amazing packaging, postcards, and a book with beautiful illustrations and you get the best musical/visual package available.

  • bostonasphalt07

    this album is absolutely amazing!

  • sindley

    This is it.
    “When we dance
    It looks just like fire
    When we sing it
    It sounds the same tone
    We all have hearts
    We all have homes
    But when we die
    We die alone.”
    Another INCREDIBLE album, thank you Dear Hunter!

  • kenny

    Amazing album.

  • hoursintodays72

    yet another wonderful and epic album by the dear hunter. what it means to be alone is like the new red hands. some of the songs even contain more treos like sounds. its a great continuation of amazingness.

  • Nathanael

    i wouldnt expect anything less from TDH, the album holds true to the sound of the previous cds but brings new originality and life into the story.
    its just sad that we’re halfway through the story and that there can’t be more cds after 6.

  • hobo wanderer

    So Epic! Come away young man where the ground is red and you need a mask to breathe!

  • jrkrush2112

    Great Review! Awesome to see a critic that appreciates music for more than its commercial worth. This album truly is a piece of art.

  • AlekW2113

    Very well written review. This album truly does transcend genres and cliches to form a niche that only The Dear Hunter can occupy. Every time you listen to the record you’ll find something new to love about it. Be it the kick ass ending to Mustard Gas, the xylophone piece in This Beautiful Life, or the Vital Vessle Vindicates reprise in Father, a new attraction to this record will form with every listen. An amazing album that will be listened to for many decades to come.

  • Pauliwrath

    This is a very positive review, and I agree with it, though I do more objective standpoints towards albums like these.

    That being said, this record is fantastic, and the packaging for the deluxe edition is the most stunning I’ve seen on any album. I honestly can’t wait for Act IV now, which is a bit messed up as one would expect to be satisfied by the latest release, and though I am, I yearn for more.

  • hoursintodays72

    absolutely agreed about how they can pull off being a concept band. they continue telling the story without it getting old or boring or confusing. they have kept me interested and i am still interested for the rest of the story. act 3 is awesome. and i am excited for the next 3.

  • Act III is definitely the best album of the year, to date.
    It’s absolutely amazing and The Dear Hunter should be proud to have made such a powerful, moving album.

  • The album definitely lived up to the anticipation and hype around it. It is the best album to come out so far this year in my books :)

  • vincentpoprocky

    Albums yet to drop this year are automatically out of the running; this is the defining masterpiece of the year.

    This cornerstone of the story makes me giddy to think what will come in the second half of the Dear Hunter continuum.

    Great review!

  • Joe

    Great review, I couldn’t agree more. I can’t wait to see them headlining for Act III.

  • Danny

    Hands down easily the best album of the year.

  • this is their best album so far… and that’s saying something.

  • meghan lynch

    “we at UTG have to do is hold a place in our top 5 records of each year for The Dear Hunter because it seems impossible for them to disappoint us. If you’re ready to get away from the cliche scene and dive into some true art, run, don’t walk, to the record store and buy it. Seriously….wow.”

    they are right….it is IMPOSSIBLE for tdh to disappoint!!!!! so glad i preordered!

  • I have been following the dear hunter since i got a copy of their very first album and casey since he was in the receiving end of sirens. The dear hunter is one of the most artistic and intuitive bands i have ever heard and i hope they continue to make more music for the years to come.

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